Green Party Manifesto 2010 - 4. Our environment
The canary in the mine
Miners used to take canaries down mines with them to check for poisonous gases.
They were an advance warning of impending problems. That’s what climate change is today – a threat in itself to our survival as a species and a warning of more general ecological collapse. The evidence from Copenhagen suggests that mainstream governments just haven’t grasped the nature and scale of the changes that need to be made, from massive investments in energy saving, to green technologies and infrastructure, to transfers of funds to developing countries.
Human-made climate change is an unprecedentedly serious threat to our welfare.
But only the Green Party understands that this is just one sign of the stress our economies and lifestyles put on the environment.
Other political parties will have you believe that it’s just an isolated problem. But it’s not. It’s a sign of what’s to come unless we get our planetary home in order.
We know that every person, every community, every country has a carbon footprint that contributes to climate change. And we know that those with big footprints – the wealthy and those with extravagant lifestyles – have to make them smaller.
But carbon isn’t the only footprint we have.
We have water footprints, and other footprints too. Added together, these different footprints add up to our total ecological impact – and it mustn’t be bigger than the planet we live on.Today, though, the scale of economic activity has taken us dangerously beyond what the planet can bear if it is to continue to support flourishing human and other life, and population growth only makes things worse.
That is why climate change is more than an isolated threat – it is a warning of the catastrophic social and environmental consequences of business as usual.
The failure of the Copenhagen Conference makes it more obvious than ever that finding a global solution to climate change is not just a technical and economic issue. The solution must also involve justice on a global scale, equity and interdependence. And it is an area where the UK should play a leading role in the EU and at international level to secure a fair, ambitious and binding deal.
That is why we support the Contraction and Convergence framework for mitigating climate change. Under such a system all countries would eventually converge on the same low emissions per capita. Rich countries would need to contract to that level quickly, while poorer countries would contract much more slowly to that level, or in a few cases expand to meet it.
Under that scenario, and to avoid warming exceeding 2°C, the UK needs to adopt an initial annual carbon dioxide emissions reduction target of around 10 per cent, with the aim of reducing emissions by 90 per cent from 1990 levels by 2030, and 65 per cent by 2020 – starting now.
Why we need to reduce emissions by 10 per cent per year
The concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere has risen from 270 parts per million (ppm) CO2 in the 19th century to about 435ppm CO2 equivalent (that is, including other greenhouse gases like methane) today. The Government assume that we should aim in the long run to stabilise the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at about 550ppm CO2 equivalent. Their target of an 80% reduction by 2050 (or about 2.5% per year) is based on that. But the Government’s own Stern Report (which summarises the scientific consensus) says that at that level of greenhouse gases there is a 75–99% chance (that is, near certainty) of global warming exceeding 2°C. If that happens there is a high chance of runaway and disastrous climate change. We in the Green Party think it is both imprudent and immoral knowingly to accept that level of risk. We think we should aim to stabilise the level of CO2 equivalent in the atmosphere at a level just slightly above the present level (i.e. around 450ppm). The scientists agree with us. To achieve 450ppm, global emissions need to drop by as much as 60% as soon as 2030. And industrialised countries with high emissions, like the UK, can both afford to, and need to, reduce their emissions rather faster: a 90% reduction by 2030. That means an annual reduction of about 10% per year from now until 2030.
Carbon quotas would work like this
Each year a carbon budget would be set for the UK. The budget would define the total amount of carbon dioxide that can legally be emitted, and thus the total number of carbon quota units available.
This budget would be successively reduced each year in line with targets for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. About half the carbon quotas would be distributed, free of charge, to all the adults in the country. Each person would have a ‘carbon account’ and would receive the same number of carbon units.
Parents would receive a lower allocation on behalf of their children.
The rest of the carbon units would be sold by the Government to companies and other organisations.
Whenever you buy fossil fuels (or airline or train tickets) your carbon account card would be debited. You would have to pay in carbon units as well as in pounds and pence. If you buy other goods or services that involve carbon emissions in their manufacture or delivery, then the units the manufacturer has used will be reflected in the price.
You will be able to sell excess carbon units, or buy extra units if you need to, at a wide range of outlets, like petrol stations or from energy companies.
As poorer people use less carbon, carbon quotas would redistribute wealth significantly.
Reducing demand, securing supply
- Prioritise the new 3 Rs: Remove, Reduce, Replace. First remove demand altogether where possible (e.g. by stopping the carbonintensive activity altogether, or by true zerocarbon technology); then reduce demand (e.g. by energy-efficiency measures); then switch to renewables for whatever energy need is left.
- Discourage use of fossil fuels by bringing back the fuel duty escalator, increasing duty in real terms by 8% per annum and through a series of other measures in this manifesto.
- In the longer run, introduce carbon quotas (see box on page 37) and protect low-income households, especially pensioners, from fuel poverty.Without these measures, ‘peak oil’ will disastrously undermine our social fabric.
- The private sector has not responded to the challenge of renewable energy with sufficient vigour and investment. We would introduce a massive programme of direct Government investment in largescale wind and other renewable generation, and investment in the grid, spending as much as £20bn over the Parliament and creating 80,000 jobs in installation and equipment manufacture.
- Require all major development plans and planning applications to show how they will contribute to carbon reduction targets.
- Aim to obtain about half our energy from renewable sources by 2020 and ensure that emissions from power generation are zero by 2030.
- Phase out nuclear power and resolutely oppose any new nuclear power stations. Nuclear power is expensive and takes longer to produce than renewable energies. In addition to its known risks, there is still no safe or affordable way of disposing of nuclear waste. Not permit any further investment in new coal-fuelled power stations.
- Encourage renewable heat and combined heat and power by levying a waste heat tax on new power stations and by helping councils develop heat distribution networks in suitable urban areas.Work to increase the adoption of biogas from organic sources such as agricultural and sewage waste materials, working with the water companies to build digestion plants.
- Oppose the large-scale cultivation of bio-fuels, especially in poor countries where they compete with land for food, or result in the destruction of tropical forests.
- Introduce stronger planning policies to support onshore wind, tidal, wave, solar and geothermal energy schemes, and help local planning authorities to make more consistent decisions. Give micro-renewables ‘permitted development’ status.
- Bring the electricity network and gas mains into a fully accountable public sector and develop them where needed for renewable energy schemes.
- Introduce smart meters and appliances.
- Enlarge and develop renewable energy feed-in tariffs paying premium rates for large and small producers of renewable electricity
- Support Europe-wide renewable energy initiatives such as an under-sea grid for offshore wind and marine power, concentrating solar power plants in southern Europe and the North African deserts and the building of highly efficient long-distance high-voltage DC power lines.
Peak oil – dwindling supplies
Oil is a finite resource; there is only so much in the ground. One day it will run out.
But our problems begin long before then. The global rate of oil production is about to reach a maximum, stay constant for a number of years, and then gradually decline. This peak and decline in oil production has already happened on a national scale in many countries, including the USA (1971) and in the UK (1999). The majority of predictions for the global peak fall between now and 2015.
Once demand for oil exceeds supply the price will go up. From now on, oil is going to be dirtier, harder to extract and more expensive to refine. A similar fate awaits natural gas.
The peak in gas production is expected to be later than for oil, but the decline will be much faster when it occurs.
We use oil for nearly everything in our modern way of life - as fuel for transport and heating, and as a feedstock for solvents, plastics, asphalt, pharmaceuticals and packaging. Oil is also vital for today’s industrial agriculture, providing chemical fertilisers, herbicides, fungicides, pesticides, fuelling machinery, processing and food delivery. High oil prices will wreck economies, leading to inflation and slump. Competition for oil has already led to war.
Nuclear power is not the answer
We recognise that some environmentalists, faced with the urgent need to combat climate change, have reluctantly decided that nuclear power will have to be part of the energy mix.
Promoting safety and sustainability
The emphasis in transport policy should be upon improving access to local facilities and everyday transport.We would prioritise transport modes according to the following hierarchy:
- Walking and cycling
- Public transport (trains, trams and buses) and rail freight
- Heavy goods vehicles
To encourage walking and cycling for shorter journeys and improve road safety we would:
- Reduce speed limits (e.g. to 20mph in built-up areas, including villages).
- Make streets safe; make them public spaces again. Plan for mixed-use developments where shops, housing and businesses are closely located and connected by pavements and cycleways.
- Introduce a maximum speed limit of 55mph on motorways and trunk roads, and 40mph on rural roads, to make them safer for all road users.
- Introduce schemes such as Home Zones, Safe Routes to School and pedestrianisation.
- Ensure that at least 10% of transport spending is on securing a shift to more active travel like walking and cycling. Reallocate the £30 billion the Government has earmarked for road-building over the next 10 years. Spend the money on a programme of investment in public transport over the Parliament.
- Provide affordable, cheaper local transport that is accessible to those with disabilities by investing in buses and subsidising some routes. Make public transport public.
- Reregulate bus services nationally.
- Assist businesses with green workplace travel plans.
- Give higher priority to railways and plan for a growing railway network.
- Open additional stations on existing routes.
- Invest in new Light Rapid Transit systems (using appropriate technologies).
- Simplify fares for all public transport, with discounted fares for off-peak journeys and for those with low incomes.
- Support free local transport for pensioners.
- Return the railways, tube system and other light railway systems, including both track and operations, to public ownership.
- Support in principle a new north–south high-speed line, which would reduce the number of short-haul flights within the UK.
We would make the cost of private cars more effectively mirror their environmental cost to wider society:
- Abolish car tax and replace it with a purchase tax on new cars that reflects their emissions. That way we would affect the types of car chosen at the time that matters, when they are bought new.
- Prioritise public transport, then if necessary work towards the introduction of road pricing schemes like the London congestion charge.
We would reduce heavy freight and shift it from the roads to the railways:
- Reduce the demand for freight transport by localising the economy.
- Expand the rail freight network and make greater use of waterways, where suitable.
- Safeguard land adjacent to railways for use in freight distribution projects.
- Introduce road user tolls for heavy lorries.
We would reduce air travel:
- Introduce taxation on aviation that reflects its full environmental costs. Failure to tax aviation fuel, and choosing not to levy VAT on tickets and aircraft, amounts to a subsidy worth around £10bn every year in the UK alone.
- Stop airport expansion and shift shorter air journeys to the railways (45% of all air trips in the EU are under 500Km) .
- Ban night flying.
Investing in public transport
Expansion of public transport (and walking and cycling) is critically important to decarbonising our transport infrastructure, which is the only sector in which climate-altering carbon emissions are currently growing.
We would divert money currently being wasted on huge road projects and put more of the UK’s transport budget into public transport, and especially into local schemes for walking, cycling and bus travel.
We would spend £1.5 billion subsidising existing public transport to make fares up to 10% cheaper, and £30 billion over the Parliament on investing in a better system. This will have the effect of strengthening communities, promoting a greater appreciation of place, reducing crime, improving the health of the population and reducing traffic fatalities.
It would also create 160,000 jobs.
The new investment in public transport should itself be in low-carbon technologies as far as possible.
Farming, food and animal protection
Healthy and affordable food and recreation
- Localise the food chain, including assistance for small farms, starting farmers’ markets, farm box schemes and locally owned co-ops.
- Set new targets every five years and a minimum conversion of 10% of UK food production to organic every five years.
- Replace the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) with support for smaller farms, organic agriculture, local food markets, and measures to increase biodiversity in our countryside – European subsidies must support planetfriendly farming. Replace the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) with policies that prioritise protection of the oceans and provide sustainable support to fishing communities. In particular, properly finance the implementation of the Marine and Coastal Access Act.
- Support GM-free zones and continue to work for a complete ban on genetically modified food in Europe.
- Intensive livestock farming is a major contributor to greenhouse gases through the production of methane.We will work to measure and reduce the impact of our meat and dairy consumption, while recognising that traditional rotational grazing has potential for storing carbon in the soil.
- Improve food skills by encouraging schools to involve children in growing, preparing and cooking food.
- Reduce the dominance of supermarket chains through a range of measures, such as:
- vigorously enforcing monopoly legislation against the existing largest chains;
- introducing a supermarket Ombudsman to protect farmers from supermarket bullying;
- prohibiting new out-of-town retailing, and requiring parking charges for private car parks with exemption for the disabled;
- insisting that 50% of retail floor space in all new developments is affordable space for local small businesses;
- including clear policies on sustainability to enable planning authorities to give priority to local firms and farms;
- prohibiting new private retail parking in large developments, apart from disabled; and
- providing many more allotments. Most people who want an allotment should be able to get one. Councils should use existing powers to designate new allotments in perpetuity.
Allotments – seeding the future
30,000 people have allotments – and 100,000 are waiting for one. Allotments cut carbon and are seeds for communities to grow.
Taking animal protection seriously
We share the world with other animals and are not entitled to ill-treat or exploit them.
Accordingly we would:
- Phase out all forms of factory farming of animals and enforce strict animal welfare standards generally, including in organic agriculture.
- Ensure that the European ban on seal imports is implemented fully; ban the import of real fur products, but ensure that real fur is clearly labelled until a ban is in place; press the EU to ban fur factory farming; bring in non-lethal alternatives to shooting seals at fish farms.
- Maintain the ban on hunting with dogs and extend to other blood sports, including the use of snares, and oppose badger culling.
- Immediately ban causing harm to animals (including but not only primates) in research, testing and education, and invest in the development of alternatives to animal experiments.
- End live animal exports and limit journey times for all animal transport.
- Implement a full ban on the production and sale of eggs produced from hens kept in battery cages (including ‘enriched’ cages).
- Protect biodiversity and human and animal health.We will always adopt the ‘precautionary principle’ with regard to any alleged benefits of new technologies such as genetic modification, cloning, xenotransplantation and nanotechnology.
- Regulate the companion animal trade including a ban on the import of so-called ‘exotic pets’.
Wildlife, open spaces and landscape
We must protect our wildlife and landscape and their diversity, both for their own sake and ours – clean air, water, food and flood regulation all depend on the natural landscape.
Biodiversity is under threat. Human activity is driving the sixth great extinction and we are losing about 30,000 species per year.We have a historic opportunity not only to halt the degradation of our natural environment, but to begin to roll back two centuries of exploitation.
- Promote landscape-scale conservation, using reform of the Common Agricultural Policy and the planning system to encourage restoration of heathlands, woods, marshland and other important habitats.
- Reduce dramatically the use of pesticides and introduce measures such as ‘buffer zones’ around sprayed fields to protect humans as well as wildlife.
- Oppose the introduction of a non-elected Planning Commission, particularly for new roads, runways, incinerators and inappropriate housing developments, and ensure that sustainable development, not just economic development, is at the heart of the planning system.
- Press to extend the amount of land covered by the EU Habitats Directive in the UK, and ensure that protected sites are in good condition.
- Set up a national Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) to promote and integrate research and development on public health and environmental protection.
- Protect wildlife abroad by cracking down on the illegal trade in wildlife products such as ivory, protect biodiversity in British Overseas Territories, and oppose all forms of commercial and ‘scientific’ whaling.
- Increase the tranquillity of our urban environments, with less litter, less noise, reduced light pollution and more green spaces. Everyone should live within walking distance of natural green space.